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Boredom Kills

My son, the research scientist, finds himself thinking alot about boredom nowadays. He traces his interest to an old slogan of mine, when I had The Games Preserve. The slogan: Boredom Kills, Games Preserve You - a slogan which became even more important to me when I discovered Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his book Beyond Boredom and Anxiety.

He found this in an article called "Why it is important to reform schools."
"How might we describe the current (school) system? Cheap. Somewhat arbitrary. Not challenging. But the super-bogeyman who takes the blame, who makes educators tremble and students say 'eh, whatever,' is boredom. School is boring to those who are its most important members, the students.

"Boredom (bor'dem) n. the condition of being bored by something dull or uninteresting. Boredom is at once education's biggest problem, clearest symptom of illness, and the key to solving the puzzle. Boredom is the enemy of students and teachers alike. Boredom makes teachers cry, and students sleep. Boredom can make the best lesson plan look ugly. Boredom spreads like the plague. Boredom wants to get inside your head. Boredom hates puppies. Boredom kills brain cells. Boredom wants to sleep with your wife. Boredom causes terrorism. You get the point. Boredom is evil, and it haunts schools like an evil boring thingy, sparing no one in its path. If it wins, we all lose. Banish boredom, and our problems are solved."

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BonzoGal said...

I once read a quote: "Boredom is rage stretched thin." Can't remember who wrote it originally, but boy, did it stick with me!

Anonymous said...

I love this site, and others connecting to it! I couldn't disagree more about the boredom missive however. Boredom is good and we all need boredom as much as we need clean air and water to survive. Boredom is what takes us to those unique places in our mind that lead to action we otherwise would not have taken to achieve things only each of us is capable of achieving.  Adults have this idea that it is their job to solve the boredom problem for kids... wrong!  Our job is not to keep them occupied and busy.  Our job is to teach them how useful and necessary boredom is!

Submitted by Barb Lundgren, of Rethinking Education, the national conference that supports self education for all ages. Contact barb.lundgren@comcast.net

Bernie said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Barb. You are, of course, right on. I think maybe it'd help if we focused on boredom in the pathological sense, when it becomes apathy, rather than on boredom when there is still an awareness somewhere that one is in fact bored. Boredom becomes a concern when we are so bored that we become helpless. That's when the only comfort we can find lies in apathy and total disconnection.

In my excursions into Csikszentmihalyi's work, I've tried to help people think of boredom as a boundary condition of the flow experience - something that is, in fact, necessary for flow to be experienced. See Of Fun and Flow. So your comment is doubly welcome. Especially the part about your loving this site.

Anonymous said...

Boredom as apathy, huh? I suppose on a continuum apathy could be seen as the highest order of boredom, but I fear we will wind up in a debate about semantics rather than boredom. Regarding your comment on the relationship between boredom and helplessness, I think helplessness is always a learned response, not an inherent one. The human condition by nature drives each one of us to stimulation, adventure, creativity. It is only through an ongoing process of being thwarted that we learn we are incapable and unable (helpless) to accomplish those natural inclinations. Thwarting comes in the form of parents, teachers and well-meaning others telling us no when we say yes, you can't do this when we think we can, you aren't old enough for this when we believe we are, you will hurt yourself when we believe we will accomplish something safely (who WANTS to hurt themself except an already ill person?), you can't do this until you... finish your meal, graduate from college, get your diploma, say your prayers, clean your room, etc. etc. etc. and you know you can do it right now and do it well (even if you fail, why is that important? Failure is required for future success!) Barb.lundgren@comcast.net

Chris M Dickson said...


You might well enjoy the essay "Play to Love" about the past and the future of human play and performance, viewed through one particular section of a play community, which can be found as pages numbered 15-27 (i.e. Acrobat will tell you they're 32-44) of the very large (12 MB) pdf book at http://www.ropecon.fi/brap/brap.pdf .

The rest of the book has other reflections upon playing in live-action role-playing games and a fair amount of detail about games in which people were able to find what looks like to me some remarkably Deep Fun. Not nearly the only way, of course, but it's remarkable to what extent it worked for them, and to what extent it might work for others!


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